Ellis-Bextor at the 2015 British Academy Television Awards, May 2015
Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor
10 April 1979
Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor (born 10 April 1979) is an English singer, songwriter and model. She first came to prominence in the late 1990s, as the lead singer of the indie rock band Theaudience. After the group disbanded, Ellis-Bextor went solo, achieving success in the early 2000s. Her music is a mixture of mainstream pop, disco, nu-disco, and 1980s electronic influences.
Her solo debut album, Read My Lips, was released in 2001. The album reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The record experienced international success, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide. It produced four singles, three of which reached the top three in the UK. In 2003, Read My Lips won the Edison Award for "Best Dance Album". Ellis-Bextor's second album, Shoot from the Hip, was released in 2003. The album reached number 19 in the UK and produced two top ten singles. Trip the Light Fantastic, her third album, was released in 2007 and reached number seven in the UK. The album produced three singles, one of which reached the top ten in the UK.
Her fourth studio album, Make a Scene (released in 2011) and its lead single "Bittersweet" achieved top 40 positions in the UK. In 2014, Ellis-Bextor released her fifth studio album, Wanderlust which became her highest charting album since Read My Lips. Her sixth album, the Latin America-inspired Familia earned critical acclaim in 2016.
Ellis-Bextor was born in London to Janet Ellis, who was later a presenter on BBC's children's television programmes Blue Peter and Jigsaw, and Robin Bextor, a film producer and director: they separated when she was four. As a child, Ellis-Bextor occasionally appeared on Blue Peter alongside her mother, who presented the programme.
She attended St. Stephen's School and later Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith. Among her earliest public performances were with the W11 Opera children's opera from the age of thirteen, and she is now a patron of the organisation.
Ellis-Bextor has said "I didn't see myself as a good-looking girl and that was good, because I didn't rely on it.... I've now found lots of like-minded weirdos so it's OK."
Ellis-Bextor began her professional musical career in 1996, singing lead vocals in indie band Theaudience. The band released four singles, including the UK Top 40 hits "I Know Enough (I Don't Get Enough)", and "A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed", and one self-titled album (theaudience (1999)). Videos for the band's singles were directed by her father, Robin Bextor. While in Theaudience, readers of Melody Maker voted Ellis-Bextor number one in a poll of 'most sexy people in rock'.
The band split in 1999 after demos for a planned second album were rejected by their label Mercury Records, who then dropped the band. Ellis-Bextor recorded a duet with Manic Street Preachers — "Black Holes for the Young" — as a B-side for their 1998 single "The Everlasting", and in 1999, made an appearance on the Departure Lounge album Out of Here.
2000–2003: Read My Lips
After Theaudience split, Ellis-Bextor took a year off from singing. In 2000, she collaborated with Italian DJ Spiller, adding vocals to his track "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)". It entered the UK charts at number one, just beating former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham on her first solo track. "Groovejet" won several awards: No. 1, Pop Top 20; No. 1, ILR; No. 1, Radio 1; No. 8, top dance track of 2000 and single of the year in Melody Maker. In the Metro Newspaper, it received ninth place in the contest for the Greatest No. 1 of all time. In 2000, it was a finalist in The Record of the Year. In that same year, it won the awards for Best Single and Best Ibiza Tune at the Ericsson Muzik Awards.
In 2001, Ellis-Bextor released her début album, Read My Lips. It reached number two on the UK charts and spawned four top-twenty hit singles. Her rework of Cher's "Take Me Home" reached number two, as did "Murder on the Dancefloor", which became Ellis-Bextor's biggest single and was on charts for twenty-three weeks. "Murder on the Dancefloor" became Europe's most played song of 2002. In 2002, Read My Lips was re-released with two new songs (and a live version of "Groovejet") and Ellis-Bextor won the Recording Artist Award at that year's Showbusiness Awards. Her third single, "Get Over You / Move This Mountain", was released in June 2002 and reached number three. The fourth single, "Music Gets the Best of Me", rose to number fourteen in December. At the beginning of 2002, Ellis-Bextor was nominated for the "British Female Solo Artist" BRIT Award, going on to be nominated for a further two consecutive years.
2003–2006: Shoot from the Hip
Her second album, Shoot from the Hip, was released in October 2003 and yielded two further top-ten singles, "Mixed Up World" and "I Won't Change You". The album reached number 19 on the UK charts and was certified silver by the BPI for shipments of 60,000. Ellis-Bextor described the album as "more emotionally direct" and "a little more left-of-centre at times" than Read My Lips—"It has more of a live feel [...] It's still a pop album—with elements of disco, indie and rock." She opted to step back from promotion of the album after becoming pregnant.
2007–2008: Trip the Light Fantastic
Trip the Light Fantastic, Ellis-Bextor's third album, was released in May 2007 and reached number seven in the UK. The album produced three singles: "Catch You" (number 8 in the UK), "Me and My Imagination" (number 23), and "Today the Sun's on Us" (number 64). The song "If I Can't Dance" was announced as a single but later retracted.
Ellis-Bextor supported George Michael on his UK tour leg in June 2007. Her own UK tour, the Trip the Light Fantastic Tour, was due to start in August 2007, but it was postponed after Ellis-Bextor was invited to be the "special guest" on Take That's Beautiful World Tour, which commenced in October 2007. Ellis-Bextor stated that her tour would be rescheduled for March 2008, with all tickets purchased being valid for the rescheduled concerts. The tour was never rescheduled, and Ellis-Bextor subsequently refused to discuss the issue in interviews. In October 2008, Ellis-Bextor sang at the Keep the Promise Rally in Trafalgar Square to end Child Poverty.
2009–2011: Make a Scene
In June 2009, Ellis-Bextor was featured on the Freemasons single "Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)", which reached number 13 in the UK. In July, she performed alongside girl groups The Saturdays and Girls Can't Catch at the iTunes Festival, held at the Roundhouse in London. A recording of her performance was released, Sophie Ellis-Bextor: iTunes Live in London, which was the singer's first extended play. "Bittersweet" (co-written by Freemasons and Hannah Robinson), the first single from Ellis-Bextor's fourth album, was released in May 2010 and reached 25 on the UK Singles Chart. Ellis-Bextor's collaboration with DJ Armin van Buuren, "Not Giving Up on Love", was released as a single in August 2010 in Europe. Also in 2010, she was featured on the Junior Caldera single "Can't Fight This Feeling".
The singer's fourth album, Make a Scene, was released in June 2011 following a year-long delay, during which she left her label Universal Music Group to establish her own label, EBGBs.  Ellis-Bextor said that her decision to leave Universal was spurred on by the departure of the head of Fascination Records, the sub-label to which she was signed, following the release of "Bittersweet". Ellis-Bextor described Make a Scene as "very much [a dance album]—more so than any of my other albums." Ellis-Bextor said she was planning an "album that's really different [...] but I think this album [Make a Scene] is a good way to bow out of the dance sound for now. I think it's finishing on a high." She worked with Calvin Harris, Richard X, Dimitri Tikovoi, Hannah Robinson, Metronomy, and Liam Howe from the Sneaker Pimps. "Off & On" preceded the release of the album in continental Europe and Russia, where the album was released by Universal Music Russia; in the UK, the single "Starlight" was released ahead of the album in May 2011.
Ellis-Bextor supported synth-pop band Erasure on their Total Pop! Forest tour of woodland locations in the UK in June 2011. She resumed touring internationally in 2011, playing venues such as Jakarta's SoulNation festival, as well as returning to Australia by performing in Sydney and Melbourne. Ellis-Bextor collaborated with French DJ Bob Sinclar on a track titled "Fuck with You" (released in November 2011), which was included on his album Disco Crash and was a huge club hit in Continental Europe. Ellis-Bextor's collaboration with French DJ Mathieu Bouthier, "Beautiful", was released in July 2012 in France.
2012–2014: Wanderlust and collaborations
In May 2011, she revealed that she had begun work on her fifth album. Beginning in 2012, Ellis-Bextor worked with British singer and producer Ed Harcourt on a "more concept driven record", and possibly having as few as eight tracks. Her performance at a London charity gala in November 2012 including a new song, "Young Blood"; a demo of the song was released in March 2013 as a complimentary digital download from her website, as a thank you gift to her fans. Also in 2013, she performed outdoors at Old Republic Square in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Ellis-Bextor confirmed completion of the album in May and revealed its title, Wanderlust, and covert art in October.
"Young Blood" was released as the lead single from Wanderlust in November 2013, peaking at number three on the UK Indie Chart and at number 34 on the UK Singles Chart. The album was released in January 2014 and peaked at number four on the UK Albums Chart and at number one on the UK Independent Albums Chart. Wanderlust also debuted inside the Scottish Top 10 Albums Chart. Ellis-Bextor performed a headline sold-out show to support Wanderlust's release in January 2014 at Bush Hall, London, and also performed at Union Chapel, London in April. Ellis-Bextor then announced a 10-date UK tour, which finished in Glasgow in April 2014.
Ellis-Bextor collaborated with Guéna LG and Amir Afargan on the track "Back 2 Paradise", which was released in June 2014. The single was the number-one "breakout" in October 2014 on the US Billboard Dance/Club Chart, later reaching number 25 on the Dance/Club Chart. Ellis-Bextor then featured on the song "Only Child", produced by electronic music project DedRekoning, which was released in September 2014. The track was remixed by Paul Oakenfold, Roddy Reynaert and Pearson and Hirst, among others.
2015–present: Familia and The Song Diaries
In January 2015, Ellis-Bextor said that she had begun working on her sixth studio album, once again with Ed Harcourt. In January 2016, Ellis-Bextor posted an image on Instagram captioned "Last song written. Next stop - rehearsals! #album6 #whatthehellshouldicallit." She also posted a YouTube video of the making of the album. According to Ellis-Bextor, the album, titled Familia, was inspired by a recent visit to North America, particularly Mexico. Familia is the Spanish word for "family" (a tattoo Ellis-Bextor wears in her arm since her first child's birth) and Ellis-Bextor described the album's sound as closer to that of her earlier albums. She explained that she "wanted something with a Spanish or Italian feel" and that it continued some stories from Wanderlust. Familia was released in September 2016 and reached number 12 on the UK Albums Chart. It spawned four singles, but none of them made it into any major chart. After taking time off for the birth of her child in late 2015, she resumed touring in 2017, mostly at small venues in the UK.
In November 2017, she announced via Facebook a selection of her greatest hits reworked with an orchestra. In February 2018, she announced the album's title, The Song Diaries, and pointed out that it would consist of re-recorded tracks spanning her career from theaudience to Familia's "Wild Forever", plus a new track. The album's artwork was drawn by David Downtown. The Song Diaries first single "Love Is You", a disco track originally performed by Carol Williams, which is sampled on her early hit Groovejet, was released in August 2018. In the following months Ellis-Bextor further released the reworked versions of "Take Me Home", "Murder on the Dancefloor" and "A Pessimist is Never Disappointed". The Song Diaries was released in March 2019 and peaked at number 14 in the UK.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in the UK, Ellis-Bextor performed live weekly "Kitchen Disco" concerts featuring herself and her family, streamed live from their kitchen on Instagram.
In 2007, Ellis-Bextor appeared at Christmas in the Robbie the Reindeer episode, "Close Encounters of the Herd Kind". Ellis-Bextor was depicted as a female alien at the closure of the story, singing the song "Supersonic", the last track on her third solo studio album Trip the Light Fantastic. In November of that year she also launched the npower Greener Schools Programme, which aims to give schools in the UK a 'green makeover' by providing free energy audits, implementing tailor-made energy efficiency measures to reduce their carbon footprint, and educating children on how to be greener She also launched Capital Radio's Capital 95.8 'Lights Out London' campaign, which asks Londoners to switch off their lights for one hour in a bid to save 750 MWh and send a message to the world on the importance of climate change.
In 2008, she features in the short musical film The Town that Boars Me by photographer Ben Charles Edwards. The film also features Jodie Harsh, Kelly Osbourne and Zandra Rhodes. The film was set to début at the Portobello Film Festival and is produced by Glass Loves and Shoot to Kill Productions.
In May 2008, Ellis-Bextor was hired by cosmetics brand Rimmel as one of their new faces. A song by Ellis-Bextor, "Sophia Loren", was featured in one of the Rimmel London television adverts for the line "Sexy Curves". Ellis-Bextor appeared as an advocate for Verdi on BBC World News classical music programme Visionaries. In September 2014, the Pretty Polly hosiery company announced that she was their latest "face and legs", and would be designing and modelling for them.
Ellis-Bextor was a contestant in the eleventh series of the televised dance competition Strictly Come Dancing in late 2013. She was partnered with Brendan Cole and reached the final, placing fourth.
In July 2020 she started a podcast called Spinning plates.
Ellis-Bextor married The Feeling bassist Richard Jones in 2005. Jones has said "something kind of smacked us in the face. The chemistry was incredible – it was like nothing I've ever experienced", and their first baby was born, two months early, only eight months after they started going out together. She suffered from pre-eclampsia (the onset of high blood pressure) during her first two pregnancies resulting in both deliveries being premature. Ellis-Bextor is an Ambassador for Borne, a medical research charity looking into the causes of premature birth. They have five sons.
In the 2019 EU Elections, Ellis-Bextor endorsed The Independent Group for Change. Her father, Robin Bextor was a candidate for the South East Region. He obtained 105,832 (4.2%) votes but failed to win a seat as he failed to obtain 5% of the vote.
Awards and nominations
|1999||NME Awards||Theaudience||Best New Band||Nominated|
|2000||The Record of the Year||"Groovejet"||Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Smash Hits Poll Winners Party||Best Dance Choon||Nominated|
|Ericsson Muzik Awards||Best Single||Won|
|Best Ibiza Tune||Won|
|2001||Brit Awards||Best British Single||Nominated|
|DanceStar Awards||Capital FM Worldwide Record of the Year||Won|
|2002||Music Television Awards||Herself||Best New Act||Nominated|
|MTV Europe Music Awards||Nominated|
|Variety Club Showbusiness Awards||Recording Artist Award||Won|
|Brit Awards||British Female Solo Artist||Nominated|
|ECHO Awards||Best International Newcomer||Nominated|
|Hungarian Music Awards||Read My Lips||Best Foreign Dance Album||Won|
|APRA Music Awards||"Murder on the Dancefloor"||Most Performed Foreign Work||Nominated|
|Top of the Pops Awards||Herself||Most Annoying Voice||Nominated|
|2004||Brit Awards||British Female Solo Artist||Nominated|
|2007||Popjustice £20 Music Prize||"Catch You"||Best British Pop Single||Nominated|
|2011||International Dance Music Awards||"Not Giving Up on Love"
(with Armin van Buuren)
|Best Commercial Dance Track||Nominated|
|Best Trance Track||Won|
|2014||AIM Independent Music Awards||Herself||Best Live Act||Won|
Current band members
- Phil Wilkinson – drums
- Richard Jones – bass
- Ciaran Jeremiah – keyboards
- Seton Daunt – guitar
- Gita Langley – backing vocals, violin
- Cat Parker – backing vocals, violin
- Read My Lips (2001)
- Shoot from the Hip (2003)
- Trip the Light Fantastic (2007)
- Make a Scene (2011)
- Wanderlust (2014)
- Familia (2016)
- Read My Lips Tour (2002-03)
- Straight to the Heart Tour (2009-10)
- Wanderlust Tour (2014)
- Familia Tour (2017)
- The Song Diaries Tour (2019)
- Kitchen Disco Tour (2021)
- Opening act
- 25 Live (for George Michael) (2006)
- Beautiful World Tour (for Take That) (2007)
- Pandemonium Tour (for Pet Shop Boys) (2010)
- Total Pop! Forest Tour (for Erasure) (2011)
- Summer 2019 (for Kylie Minogue) (2019)
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